Those Days: A Celebration of the Elderly Around Us

By Ernest Lee (17A01A), Angus Yip (18A01A), Jonah Tan (18A01A), Photographs by The Humanz Initiative (THI). 

Take a look at most concerts and plays put together by the different CCAs and student groups within the school. One trend emerges: these performances are by Rafflesians and almost always for Rafflesians. On the 29th of April, the spotlight shifted away from the student population to the world beyond our campus.

Enter Those Days, a concert organised by The Humanz Initiative (THI), a group of Humanities Programme students. Their work and interaction with seniors from the Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society (THK) culminated in an afternoon of warmth and celebration at the PAC.

The concert brought together many performers, all having the aim of putting on a good show for the elderly. From the J2 acoustic duo, Gillian (17S05A) & Joelle (17S03A), to a strings ensemble comprising former members of the CCA in RGS, the afternoon performances were a welcome change for many of the elderly, and even the invited non-teaching staff. Rather than showcasing the specific efforts of any one CCA, the concert featured a wide variety of acts, some performing popular hits, while others performed nostalgic songs of the past.

Highlights included tap-dancing from Ayrton McCully (17S06N), whose self-choreographed routine wowed many. Incorporating elements of comedy and waltz, the deft rhythm and casual confidence charmed the audience and received thunderous applause from many.

The wushu group, Weiyang Wushu, were no pushover, either. Led by former SEA Games gold medalist Dorain Tang, the cast of eight to nine children were both adorable and dazzling. Showcasing a mix of both group and solo performances that incorporated a wide variety of weapons from the jian to the dao, Weiyang Wushu were enthusiastically received by the audience.

The elderly were not merely audience members. A ukulele group from THK took to the stage to deliver moving renditions of songs from the 1950s. Strumming along to the crooning of a lead singer, the ensemble was complete with not one, but two electric guitars.

Renditions of Island in the Sun and Yellow Bird were reminders that they, too, enjoyed popular tunes of their youth. Harry Belafonte and Arthur Lyman may not be household names today, but when the songs were first released the performers would have been teenagers. This concert helped showcase the liveliness and vigour still present in their golden years.

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The elderly from THK during their ukulele ensemble performance

In between the different performances, emcees Abdul Qayyum (17A01B) and Xin Hwee (17A13A) would ask some seniors in the audience to share their thoughts regarding the performances they had watched. At one point, one elderly audience member cheerfully proclaimed, “From the very first act, every performance has been outstanding. All these performances managed to hold their own against internationally renowned performers!”

Prior to the show, the elderly had been treated to a buffet lunch on campus, accompanied by volunteer befrienders who showed them around school. Non-teaching staff, from canteen stallholders to security guards, had also been given tickets in the days leading up to the concert. Other concertgoers even brought their own grandparents, who indeed enjoyed the concert greatly.

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Audience participation segment of the concert

Despite the community-oriented nature of this concert, however, the organisers were unable to garner much publicity for the concert. Gathering support and selling tickets was a tough sell, as the perception that Those Days was for the elderly may have led to it not being seen as an event that was accessible to all. Nonetheless, familiar faces from newly-graduated alumni to supporters from other schools turned up to show their support.

That being said, the organising team refused to give up, persisting in their efforts to ensure that this concert would be a success. The enthusiastic and meticulous planning for the concert guaranteed that the elderly would be treated to nothing less than a perfect experience.

Importantly, the concert stayed true to its mission of celebrating the elderly in the community, weaving modern acts of song and dance with more traditional forms of performance, such as Wushu, that the elderly could easily identify with.

Gerbera booths were organised to allow concertgoers to purchase the multicolored flowers as gifts for the elderly, while the emcees were conscious to alternate between English, Mandarin and Malay to accommodate their audience. From the pre-concert touches to the closing of the curtains, THI’s commitment to making this a delightful concert for the elderly shone through.

Their efforts paid off. As well as being entertaining, the concert was highly meaningful for the audience. Whether it was during their ukulele performance on stage, or when the emcees asked them about their thoughts, it was clearly apparent that they appreciated the concert very much.

THI EXCO member Cassandra Ang (17A01A) stated that “the most fulfilling and amazing part was being able to really see that the elderly – beneficiaries whose faces and stories we know – enjoyed themselves with the catered lunch, the planned activities, the concert theme which had been arranged around their interests and the flowers from our befrienders.”

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The seniors from THK enjoyed the concert very much!

The concert was not simply staged with the aim of entertaining the elderly. It was a reminder to us all how crucial the elderly are to the community and also how vibrant they are. As the elderly are people we do not constantly talk with, due to factors like the generation gap and language barriers, it is easy for us to dismiss the elderly as irrelevant to society today.

The concert easily disproved this, however, revealing the vitality and vibrancy of the audience for everyone to see, and it was through this that the concert truly became a celebration of the elderly around us.

In the screening of a short film made by Timothy Fong (17A01A), Jotham Ng (17A01A), Teoh Xuan Min (17A01B), Samuel Ho (17A13A) and Jared Ong (18A13A), students were asked to share some of their unique and memorable interactions with their grandparents. They answered with sincere and contemplative responses, mixed in with occasional dashes of humour and nostalgia from the heart.

Elizabeth Xu (18A13A) recalled her grandfather sacrificing a slipper or two to help her pluck mangoes, while Li Wanjie (18A01B) mentioned how his most memorable experiences revolved around how sad he was when he had to leave his grandparents in China.

Those Days was a highly meaningful conclusion to the service project with THK that volunteers had engaged in over the past few months. As Cassandra happily affirmed, “This is a wonderful denouement to our journey, and it has been really fulfilling to see how far we’ve progressed from the very beginning!”

Indeed, the concert was a sincere love letter to the elderly around us and a clear reminder to all of us to treasure our interactions with the elderly.

THI will be organising another concert next year as part of their long-term commitment to service, and we truly look forward to attending another event as meaningful as this.

Performance Lineup

Acoustic Duo: Gillian Cheong (17S05A) & Joelle Ocampo (17S03A)

Wushu: External Group

Tap-Dancing: Ayrton McCully (17S06N)

Strings Ensemble: Ashley Tan (18A13A), Jovi Koh (18S03R), Calista Chong (18A01A), Rachel Chung (18S06E), Fong Huan Ting (18S03I), and Tian Xindi (18S03S)

Music Act: Isaac Tan (18S06Q) & Manas Srivastava (18S06H)

Ukulele Ensemble: Elders from THK

Film: Directed and produced by Timothy Fong (17A01A), Jotham Ng (17A01A), Teoh Xuan Min (17A01B), Samuel Ho (17A13A) and Jared Ong (18A13A)

Acoustic Duo: Jesse Tan (17S06N) & Goh Chou Xuan (17S03J)

Duet: Su Ying (17A01B) & Samuel Ho (17A13A)

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